'Tron: Legacy' a visual feast, not much more



Article Published: Dec. 22, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Tron: Legacy' a visual feast, not much more

Beau Garrett and Garrett Hedlund star in 'Tron: Legacy.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

Let's face it: The original 1982 "Tron" was a special effects showcase.

A fun showcase, admittedly, with state-of-the-art effects for the time and an enjoyable performance by Jeff Bridges ("The Big Lebowski").

Its 2010 sequel, "Tron: Legacy," follows suit (tight-fitting with lights on it, mind you), boasting today's effects and today's Bridges, and both are respectively enjoyable.

Like its predecessor, "Tron: Legacy" is short on story and tall on spectacle. From this digitally rendered world's high-speed chases to gladiatorial matches to thundering sound, "Legacy" easily draws viewers into its curious setting.

That setting is a computerized world within a program developed 28 years ago by ace hacker Kevin Flynn (Bridges). After narrowly escaping in the previous film, Flynn returns to further develop his creation, but vanishes in the process, leaving behind his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund, "Friday Night Lights").

Years later, Sam, now 27, receives a message from his father's abandoned arcade. While investigating, he discovers a hidden computer terminal that sucks him into the digital world his father created.

But things have changed since our last visit. CLU (voiced by and modeled after a young Bridges), a program created by Flynn to maintain the system in his absence, has grown into a tyrant, desiring perfection at the deadly expense of the system's computer program denizens and any human "users," including Flynn.

CLU determines to use Sam as a bargaining chip to lure Flynn out of hiding and strike the final blow. Plus, with Flynn's knowledge at his disposal, CLU hopes to traverse the digital bridge from his world into the real world.

Naturally, it's up to Sam and his father to stop him. With the help of Flynn's protege, Quorra (Olivia Wilde, "Year One"), our heroes seek to escape their digital nightmare and delete CLU once and for all. Of course, that's easier said than done.

Directed by first-timer Joseph Kosinski, "Legacy" makes no claim at being anything other than visual heavy sci-fi, even where Bridges' performance is concerned. Since CLU is supposed to resemble a 1982 Bridges, the character is computer-generated and distractingly, at that.

Granted, this is a setting where computer-generated imagery is supposed to look like computer-generated imagery, and with landscapes, vehicles and action sequences, it passes with literal flying colors. But when the filmmakers try to pass off a computer-animated cartoon as a real human, it simply fails.

The CGI Bridges looks anything but lifelike, instead resembling one of those disturbing, hollow-eyed Robert Zemeckis creations from "The Polar Express" or "Beowulf." It's a novel idea, but just not very convincing.

The real Bridges is the film's highlight, performing above and beyond the screenplay's hoarse call of duty, effectively bridging both films across the digital gap.

Other highlights include a laugh-out-loud cameo from electronica duo Daft Punk, decked out in Tronish versions of their own robotic get-ups. The duo also composed the music for "Legacy," a surprisingly effective soundtrack that flies hand-in-hand with the action on screen.

And this action is presented in 3D, which, despite Disney's boasting, is surprisingly underwhelming. In fact, a disclaimer appears before the film starts, warning viewers that the presentation is not entirely in 3D.

Scenes taking place in the real world are 2D, while those in the digital world are 3D. But even the 3D scenes are somewhat muddled, adding little physical depth to a story that's already shallow. Basically, viewers watching "Legacy" in 2D shouldn't feel shortchanged.

And neither should fans of the original. The sequel shares the same legacy of its nearly three-decade-old predecessor - state-of-the-art special effects and dynamic action. In that respect, it'll also share the same fate: Give "Legacy" a couple decades, and it'll likely look just as dated as the original.
"Tron: Legacy," rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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